News story

Pylon Design Competition launched

Joint press notice from DECC, National Grid and RIBA Registration opens for architects, designers, engineers and students of these disciplines…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Joint press notice from DECC, National Grid and RIBA

  • Registration opens for architects, designers, engineers and students of these disciplines

Architects, designers, engineers and students of these disciplines are being challenged to rethink one of the most crucial but controversial features of modern Britain: the electricity pylon.

A new competition has today been launched, run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and National Grid, that calls for designs for a new generation of pylon.

There are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on National Grid’s main transmission network in England and Wales. These stand some 50 metres high, weigh around 30 tonnes and carry up to 400,000 volts of electricity over thousands of kilometres of some of the most exposed, weather-beaten parts of Britain. But the familiar steel lattice tower has barely changed since the 1920s.

As well as exploring the design of the pylon itself, the competition aims to explore the relationship between energy infrastructure and the environment within which it needs to be located. The challenge is to design a pylon that has the potential to deliver for future generations, whilst balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP said:

“The dual challenge of climate change and energy security puts us on the brink of a new energy construction age. The equivalent of twenty new power stations is needed by 2020, much more beyond that, and they’ll all need connecting to the grid.

“It’s crucial that we seek the most acceptable ways of accommodating infrastructure in our natural and urban landscapes. I hope the pylon design competition will ignite creative excitement, but also help the wider public understand the scale of the energy challenge ahead of us.”

National Grid’s Executive Director UK, Nick Winser said:

“Much of the new low-carbon generation is planned for remote or coastal areas, which means new infrastructure will be needed to get the electricity we need to our homes, businesses and vehicles. While underground connection will be a viable solution in some sensitive locations, new and replacement pylons will be needed and National Grid is equally keen to support the development of the most visually acceptable overhead solutions.

“The pylon as we know it has served the nation well, but new technologies and materials mean there may now be opportunities for new designs. National Grid is excited to be part of opening up this design challenge. We will give serious consideration to developing the winning design for use in future projects.”

Ruth Reed, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), said:

“Design has never been far from our energy network. The current pylon design was chosen by Sir Reginald Blomfield, a leading architect of his day back in 1927, but the familiar steel lattice tower design has barely changed since then.

“Architects, designers and engineers strive to improve the quality of our environments and our lives. This is a technically challenging but exciting competition, with the potential to improve our landscapes for decades to come, and I expect it to generate widespread interest.”

The competition closes on 12 July, with shortlisted candidates notified at the end of July. The shortlist will then have the opportunity to work with National Grid before submitting their final designs at the beginning of September. The designs will be open for the public to view and comment on via the competition website and also at an exhibition to be held at the V&A as part of London Design Festival (17-25 September). The judging panel will meet in October to choose an overall winner.

The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP will chair the judging panel, which will include Nick Winser, Director of the V&A Sir Mark Jones, architects Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and Bill Taylor, engineer Chris Wise, the journalist Jonathan Glancey and a senior representative from RIBA.

A prize fund of £10,000 will be shared amongst the winning candidates and National Grid will give consideration to developing the winning design for use in future projects.

The competition is now live and open for registration at

Notes for editors

All enquiries relating to the competition should be addressed to:
RIBA Competitions
The Studio, 32 The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7EW
T: +44 (0)113 2341335. E:

Published 23 May 2011